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The Words of Our Mouth

By Charles F. Stanley

Do you realize how powerful words can be? Have you experienced the profound impact they can have on your life? Perhaps you’ve been blessed by a loved one’s expressions of care and comfort. Or maybe you’ve seen how destructive people’s remarks can be. Their declarations wounded your heart so deeply that they left you hurting for years.

The ability to communicate is one of God’s gifts to us, but it’s also a privilege that carries great responsibility. What we say can heal those around us and draw them closer to the Father. But wrongly used, our speech can drive people away from Him and us. That’s why it’s important to understand how detrimental gossip is. It is one of the chief ways we misuse words, resulting in dishonor to God and harm to others.

Gossip is a serious sin.

Idle and malicious talk can never be “unsaid.” Think of our words as feathers released from a pillow on a windy day. We can never retrieve them all. Once the information has been passed on, it inevitably grows with each telling as innuendos and exaggerations are added. Even after the words have died down, the pain and devastation they caused remain. It doesn’t matter what motivated us to share the information; the results of doing so are never good.

James graphically describes the destructive nature of the human tongue as a fire that sets a forest ablaze (James 3:5-6). When we allow our words to become like flaming arrows aimed at someone’s reputation, they burn up all that is good and leave ruin in their wake.

Yet gossip is one of the church’s most accepted sins. We’ve become so accustomed to such talk that we may not recognize it as evil or realize we are involved. In Christian circles, it’s camouflaged and renamed to sound innocent and even spiritual. We say we’re simply sharing our concerns or telling others about someone’s situation so they can pray. But what we should ask is, What does God think about our conversations?

The Bible mentions two types of gossip, both of which are sinful. In 1 Timothy 5:13, The apostle Paul advises Timothy to deal with those who are “busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.” If we actively search out and carelessly pass on “the latest news” about others, we are guilty of using our words for evil—even if animosity is not our motive.

On the other hand, malicious gossip is intended to hurt someone. This is Satan’s language. In fact, the Greek word from which it’s translated is diabolos, the same word used for the Devil. He is the accuser, and those who deliberately slander others are following in his footsteps.

If you still have any doubts about the seriousness of this sin, understand that Paul said gossip would characterize both those who reject Christ (Rom. 1:28-32) and lawless unbelievers who will live in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1-5). These two passages represent the worst human traits, and gossip is right in the middle of both lists.

It’s a heart issue.

Clearly, Christians have no business engaging in the destructive practice of gossip—it simply does not fit who we are in Christ. Yet many believers struggle in this area. Since “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34), we must do some internal investigation. What heart conditions lead us to talk about others?

Pride and self-importance: Those who like to be “in the know” make it their business to find out what’s going on in people’s lives. Talking about others makes them feel more important, even if it’s at someone else’s expense.

Low self-esteem: On the other end of the spectrum is the person who feels inadequate and insecure. Putting someone down helps such an individual feel superior—at least for a while.

Need for acceptance: This is probably the main reason many people participate in gossip. To take a stand against it or leave the room is a sure way to isolate oneself and possibly become the next subject of the conversation. But to stay and take part brings a feeling of belonging and acceptance.

Jealousy: This green-eyed monster can drive us to cut others down simply because we want what they have. Criticizing someone’s abilities, possessions, choices, or relationships sends the message that we could do it better, thereby elevating ourselves and demeaning the other person.

Malice: This is a purposeful attempt to destroy or discredit someone with accusations and slander. The motivation is revenge. Of all the heart conditions that lead to gossip, this one most closely aligns with Satan’s motive for accusing us before the Father.

Gossip carries consequences.

As with any sin, idle or spiteful talk always produces negative results. And the scope of these consequences is more extensive than any of us might have imagined.

For the victim: The most obvious person who suffers is the subject of the gossip. Being the target of rumor or slander is very painful and embarrassing. The words of others can destroy a reputation, divide a family, break friendships, and ruin future opportunities. Even if the information is untrue, the accusation may continue to wreak havoc for many years.

For the gossiper: Although the consequences for the one who spreads rumors may not be as readily evident, they are serious and far-reaching. You’ve heard the old saying, “When you sling mud, you’re losing ground.” Well, that’s exactly what happens to people who indulge in this dirty business. Those who attack someone else’s character end up losing their own integrity. By yielding to sinful desires, they allow “the flesh” to dominate their lives. This quenches the Holy Spirit and stunts spiritual growth, making them unfruitful.

Gossip also feeds self-righteousness and pride. Those who talk about others’ shortcomings develop a judgmental spirit and blindness to their own sins. They become like a person with a log in his eye who focuses on someone else’s tiny speck (Matt. 7:1-5). Putting others down never elevates anyone but instead reveals the sinful state of their own heart. Since their inner character is obvious to people with discernment, gossips actually deprive themselves of good relationships. Their friendships are limited because they’ve proven untrustworthy. No one wants to become their next subject of conversation.

Habitually engaging in harmful chatter also ruins our testimony for Christ. Instead of offering the lost world an appealing invitation to salvation, slanderous language gives unbelievers a good reason to reject our message.

For the listener: Since words by their very nature are influential, those who listen are also affected by gossip. Few of us can hear negative comments and not let them shape our perception and feelings about others. Those who listen to rumors and criticism are letting poison enter their hearts and minds, while opening the door of temptation to pass on the news to someone else.

For the church: When believers tear one another down instead of building each other up, the entire body of Christ suffers. Countless churches have experienced splits because of rumors and accusations. As the words fly, sides are taken and factions form. Soon the unity that Christ desires for His body is destroyed, kingdom work comes to a halt, and God is grieved.

Satan, on the other hand, takes great delight in our allegations against each other because he has us exactly where he wants us—causing division, thwarting the Lord’s purposes, and destroying our testimonies. When we’re busy maligning each other, we have neither the time nor interest to reach the lost.

Since everyone has been guilty of this sin at one time or another, we all need to learn how to deal with it. Children of God should honor Him and fellow believers with their voices (Col. 3:15-17). We can’t afford to trivialize, excuse, or rationalize thoughtless or mean words about others.

How can we participate in that which God detests? To overcome this sin, we must take a stand against it.

The ultimate remedy is a changed heart.

Since words originate from the heart, external control of our behavior is not enough. To be truly free from the sin of gossip, we require transformation from the inside out—and that is exactly what Christ specializes in doing. He can create in us new hearts that produce words which honor Him and comfort those who hear. This world is filled with accusations and criticism, but we are called to extend mercy and compassion, not condemnation. Let’s represent Christ to those who are yearning for His grace.

Everything we have has been entrusted to us by the Father, and that includes our words. One day we will each give an account to the Lord for how we have utilized this marvelous gift. Now is the time to use our voices for good and say with the psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

Questions for Further Study

  1. Read 1 Peter 3:8-12. How should believers relate to each other? List ways that evil words affect our fellowship with God.
  2. What does God command us to do to those who hurt us (Col. 3:12-14)?
  3. How can we put to use the wise advice Paul gives in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12?
  4. If we hear of someone’s failure or sin, what are we to do (Gal. 6:1-5)? Explain the additional advice given in 1 Peter 4:8.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


37 comments
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  • July 17, 2011 01:57 AM

    by

    Thank you....this is REALLY GREAT!
  • June 27, 2011 02:58 PM

    by

    Rom 1: 32 Though they are fully aware of God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them. (Amplified Bible)

    Gods word says those who do misuse their tongue in this way deserve to die!! Very serious.....

  • May 30, 2011 12:46 PM

    by

    God bless you Dr Stanley!
  • May 29, 2011 02:32 PM

    by

    god bless love this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
  • May 29, 2011 02:22 PM

    by

    Love this article. Thank you for sharing.
  • May 29, 2011 10:42 AM

    by

    It was GOOD to shared with others. I thanked GOD to you!!!
  • May 26, 2011 04:28 AM

    by

    Thank You Almighty Father , Holy Spirit , and Jesus , I am guilty of the sin of the tongue,Dear Lord Please Forgive me and create in me a new heart one to glorify You with and will be a blessing to You and others I thank You Father for your faithfulness to us Your children
  • May 24, 2011 12:56 PM

    by

    I have shared this article with my church and several people at my job. I feel blessed to understand the word of God and how he is head of my life. I love this article and as I sent it out I pray that someone will be touched. I ask God to show me the way and make me so aware of his word and any gossip that may come my way. Thank you Dr. Stanley and your wonderful staff and members who spread the word of God.
  • May 24, 2011 10:28 AM

    by

    Thank you, Dr. Stanley, for reminding us of the most devastating force within the church. Yes, I was the victim many years ago of malicious rumors and slander. It not only destroyed my reputation, but Satan wanted to destroy me and almost succeeded. I lost my parents, sibling, marriage and all of my friends. I stood alone, only with my children, and the only friend that I needed, Jesus. He is my counselor, the one that I could weep, cry out to, He listened, He didn't condemn, He consoled me, He lifted me up, He gave me strength...He truly is the only person I needed, and that is exactly where He wants to be.
    I thank Him daily for all He has brought me through, because I remembered what He said..."Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". Praying for your enemies, you cannot hate them...you learn to love them and forgive them.
    This happened over 25 years ago, and I remained faithful to Him. Today, God has brought many changes into my life. He gave me a godly husband. He is a blessing. You see, a blessing is something that you don't want, don't need and didn't ask for. He is that from God. And, that is what Jesus is also, a blessing that we didn't ask for, don't want, but definitely need. He always knows what we need. I just praise Him every day for being my savior, and most importantly, my friend!!
  • May 22, 2011 08:52 AM

    by

    Three years ago, I was confronted in a church service under the "realm" of a phrophecy that Intimated that I was not quite the "man" I should be. I was devastated an hurt. I will never retun to church again.
  • May 22, 2011 06:14 AM

    by

    This has taught me so much. I must please God with every word spoken and every thought that is in my mind.
  • May 18, 2011 10:22 AM

    by

    A constant daily reminder to us all "“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

  • May 17, 2011 06:23 AM

    by

    Something I continuously work on. When I say to the Lord, "Let my works exalt you" this is the one thing I really feel guilty about doing. How can I bring glory to Him when I set fire to His people through my tongue. I will continue to revisit this article so that it manifests in my heart. Thank you Lord for leading me to this....
  • May 16, 2011 12:45 AM

    by

    Thank you o Lord for this your words that you give us so that they may be share with all those that are yearning for it,thank for letting us to represent Christ in obedience of his command to us to do as He did.Preise the Lord our God. Amen
  • May 15, 2011 12:09 PM

    by

    I plead Guilty. Thanks for the reminder, how powerful words are. I so need to walk away from many conversations. And most of all, learn to keep my mouth shut. Thank you for this message!
  • May 14, 2011 02:40 PM

    by

    Love it!
  • May 14, 2011 09:48 AM

    by

    This article has helped me understand in more ways than one. Thankyou
  • May 14, 2011 03:24 AM

    by

    amazing thoughts
  • May 13, 2011 10:08 AM

    by

    God Bless you Dr. Stanley and this ministry! I am truly thankful
  • May 11, 2011 10:44 PM

    by pam giron

    Thanks for this enlightening message!
  • May 11, 2011 03:33 PM

    by Parul Oh

    Your ministry and this magazine is truly a God given gift! So true, the tongue has the ability to bless or curse...and it's so easy to get tangled up in the sin of gossip, it's good to be reminded of this and what we should do to avoid sinning in this area, thank you!
  • May 11, 2011 01:32 PM

    by

    It is probably the worst sin I have and try to control. I feel so guilty after gossiping or saying something hurtful about someone. I was brought up by a gossipy mom but I know that is no excuse. I will continue to work on this problem. Thanks, Dr. Stanley
  • May 11, 2011 01:25 PM

    by

    My Best Friend on facebook and in life is God... Thanks so much for you and your ministry. Idette and Shane Foran
  • May 09, 2011 10:00 PM

    by

    this is a good lesson to us. we need to control and think first what we are saying.
  • May 09, 2011 02:28 PM

    by

    This article really convicted me. Dr. Stanley is right when he says gossiping in any form will drive people away and even worse make your spiritual life barren and empty. I tricked myself into believing the lie that when I spoke I was only being honest about shortcomings or weakness or failing of something or someone. Mind you I was never malicious and never purposed to destroy anything or anyone, but this sin become full grown. I need to study up on what I should be doing and hopefully the fruit will come. I've memorized Col 3:12-14. I've been barren for a long time, Lord make the rest fruitfull...

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